Autism is a lifelong developmental condition that affects, among other things, the way an individual relates to his or her environment and their interaction with other people. The word 'spectrum' describes the range of difficulties that people on the autism spectrum may experience and the degree to which they may be affected.
A new study in adolescent and young adult males with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) showed significant differences in the functional architecture and interactivity of the default mode network (DMN)--brain regions linked to social-cognitive impairment in ASD--compared to DMN functional connectivity measurements in young adult males without ASD.
These findings, which could lead to the development of new imaging-based diagnostic markers, are described in an article published in Brain Connectivity, a peer-reviewed journal from Mary Ann Liebert, Inc., publishers. The article is available free on the Brain Connectivity website until December 31, 2017.
The researchers used resting-state functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to assess and compare the resting-state functional connectivity of the DMN in the two groups of teen and young adult males. The authors report multiple important differences between the groups, including significant reductions in the strength of intra-DMN coupling in ASD, polarity reversal, and differences in the strength of intra- and extra-DMN functional connectivity based on pattern recognition analysis.
"This study by Dr. Joshi and colleagues adds to a growing body of literature detailing altered brain connections in individuals with autism," states Christopher Pawela, PhD, Editor-in-Chief of Brain Connectivity and Assistant Professor, Medical College of Wisconsin. "Autism is presently clinically diagnosed symptomatically, which can be very difficult. These researchers hope to build a series of imaging biomarkers that could bring clarity to the autism diagnosis process and help with treatment selection."
Research reported in this publication was supported by the National Institute of Mental Health under Award Number K23MH100450. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health.